Really, it’s true.
But it may take some convincing the Indianapolis Colts otherwise, after Brees executed as if he’d never been absent on Saturday night in Lucas Oil Stadium, leading the Saints' offense to two 80-yard touchdown drives in its first three possessions.
He exited with the Saints leading 14-7 after the first quarter, and with Coach Sean Payton having seen all he needed to see of his star quarterback in the Saints’ 23-17 victory.
In his limited time, Brees completed nine of 15 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns – a 3-yarder to fullback
“I felt like it was a progression through the week,” Brees said. “I feel like the tempo and rhythm are coming back as expected.”
In leading the Saints to their third win in as many preseason games, Brees and the offense ran up 28 plays in the first quarter, and converted three of four third-down plays.
But the focus was on Brees, the only quarterback in NFL history with four 5,000-yard seasons.
After missing 16 days of team practice due to a strained oblique, he was sharp and opportunistic (his 10-yard scramble also produced a first down).
Brees said he was scheduled to log 18 to 20 plays, but the pitch count ran over in part due to the team’s methodical touchdown marches, two 80-yard drives that lasted 13 and seven plays. Sandwiched between was a six-play drive that resulted in a punt.
“It was good to see Drew back on the field,” Coach Sean Payton said. “I thought during the week that he would be sharp. (Tuesday and Wednesday), I thought the ball was coming off of his hand really sharp and accurate.”
Also, it helped that his offensive line provided a clean pocket.
“At the end of the day, if you give Drew Brees time he will be sharp,” center
As sharp as Brees and the offense were in the first half – two touchdown drives of 80 yards, and 83-yard drive that resulted in a field goal and scores on four of the first five possessions – the defense was just as effective.
The Saints' No. 1 defense produced stops on three of the Colts’ first four possessions, including Vaccaro’s interception, and also forced an Indianapolis field goal after the Colts had reached first-and-goal from the 1 near the end of the half.
“We have high expectations,” said defensive end Cam Jordan, who registered one sack and barely missed out on another.
“I think we responded well in practice. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Said Payton: “We did some good things. Situationally, we did some things that hurt us.”
The Saints twice burned timeouts in the second half because of substitution errors, once for 12 men on the field and other time, for 10. And Payton also reiterated that the Saints must cut down on the penalties; for the third consecutive game, they had double-digit penalties. The 10 against the Colts followed 22 against Tennessee and 10 against St. Louis.
But they balanced that number against Indianapolis with three forced turnovers and three sacks, and with completely smothering the Colts offense in the first half. Indianapolis had 132 yards on 27 plays at halftime.
“It was good to get the win,” Payton said. “There were a lot of positives.”
Included among them were
It wasn’t the kind of performance the Colts were looking for in their regular-season dress rehearsal.
“We’re just getting outplayed right now,” Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said at halftime. “They’re playing harder. They’re beating us at fundamental football. We’re giving up big plays on defense. We’re not tackling very well. They’re running the ball effectively. They’ve made big plays, we haven’t been able to get off the field on third down.”
New Orleans converted six of nine third-down attempts in the first half, while shutting out the Colts on three of their four third-down attempts.
Brees had a hand in the first four third-down conversions, three via passes and one with his scramble. It was his first preseason action and, possibly, the last for him and the starters.
After Saturday night, no one can argue that he needs any more.